Urban Legend
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 2 (Feb 2005)

Urban Legend

In the two 30-second spots, titled Alter Ego and Hunter Hunted, the group at MK12, a designer-director collective, along with its production company, The Ebeling Group, animated David Choe’s 2D urban illustrations, turning them into 3D imagery for the big and small screens. In addition, MK12 augmented the graffiti with CG imagery created in-house, and later, combined all the graffiti-style artwork with imagery it had acquired from the city-style EA racing game to complete the commercials.

This project, in fact, is the first venture into broadcast and cinema for Choe, who has won acclaim as a street artist, painter, muralist, and designer of graphic novels and magazine covers. After EA’s ad agency initially tapped Choe to create Need for Speed: Underground 2’s print campaign, it decided to extend his work into other media-television and film-where the commercials would be shown.
EA’s unique set of TV and cinema commercials for its Need for Speed game reflects the title’s urban content and theme.

The completed productions feature graphics of the game’s cars speeding through various hand-drawn environments illustrated in Choe’s distinctive style, and animated by MK12 using Alias’s Maya and Adobe’s Photo­shop, Illustrator, and Final Cut Pro. Graffiti-inspired flourishes zigzag through each frame as the vehicles gradually morph into several of the game’s myriad makes, models, and customizations available to game players.

“The process of integrating the game world with David Choe’s illustrations was a mysterious chasm for us at first,” says producer Niki Polyocan at advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy. “But MK12 figured out how to do it in a completely fresh and unexpected way that looks like nothing else on the air right now.”

By mixing and matching DNA-Choe’s, EA’s, and its own-MK12 created a look it describes as “visual hip-hop.” “We wanted to try to animate the way Choe paints: intuitively, instinctively, and in tons of different layers,” says a spokesperson for the MK12 group.

One of the team’s biggest challenges was synthesizing diverse art-hand-drawn elements, painted elements, game footage, 2D and 3D graphics, and three flavors of audio (game, narration, and visual effects)-and twisting them around a narrative that both made sense and was something no one has ever seen before.

Closing the spots are the EA Games logo and the tagline, “Challenge Everything,” which is not far from what the commercials themselves did by thinking outside the box to produce a new look for a new generation. -Karen Moltenbrey

The two commercials combine animated graffiti artwork from popular street artist David Choe (top) with footage from the EA computer game and other CG elements for a compelling, stylized look (middle and bottom) atypical for TV and cinema.